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Keeping a Fire Extinguisher in your Home

It's the device every home should have but hopefully should never have to use: a fire extinguisher is an important home safety device, and no fire safety plan is complete without one.

When you go to the hardware store to purchase your fire extinguisher, you'll find a variety of extinguishers designed to deal with different situations. Knowing what you'll encounter will help you determine what types are best for your home.

Top of the Class Fire extinguishers are sorted into classes based on the type of fire they're designed to extinguish, and each class uses a different type of agent to extinguish the fire. Here are the classes you can expect to see:

  • Class A is designed for fires involving wood, paper, or plastics. If your favorite scented candle fell onto the book you'd just put down, you'll need Class A.

  • Class B is for oils, gasoline, or propane. You'll want this type of extinguisher for grease fires in the kitchen or for most fires around the garage.

  • Class C is for electrical fires. If your home has older wiring or if you're having electrical work done on your home, get a Class C fire extinguisher.

You may also see Class K fire extinguishers, which are designed especially for professional kitchens and can cope with big grease fires.

Several manufacturers make fire extinguishers for multiple types of fires and may have A-B-C on their labels to indicate this. If you see a number before the A or B, this shows how effective the extinguisher is against each type of fire. Higher numbers mean greater effectiveness against that type of fire.

Weight Matters Size matters when it comes to fire extinguishers. Fire extinguishers range from 2 to 10 pounds, and more isn't always better. You want a device large enough to be effective but small enough to store conveniently nearby. You may want a few extinguishers in different sizes depending on how much time you spend in an area and the number of combustible items in that area. You may need a bigger device in the garage, whereas a mid-sized one would be better in the kitchen to deal with sudden grease fires.

This Is A Drill Familiarize yourself with how your fire extinguishers work before you use them. Most will use the P.A.S.S. method: Pull the pin, Aim the nozzle at the base of the fire, Squeeze the handle at the top of the extinguisher, and Sweep the device side to side. Keep your fire extinguishers in a place where you can access them easily, and remind yourself of their location several times a year. A good time to remind yourself is when you check your smoke alarm batteries or test a hard-wired smoke alarm system for a more complete fire safety check.

Charging Ahead A fire extinguisher is a pressurized device, and nothing can maintain pressure forever. If your extinguisher has been used or is more than a few years old, your local fire department can direct you where you can have it recharged. Fire extinguishers can also corrode or be damaged otherwise. If this happens, replace the device quickly.

While improvised remedies can extinguish some house fires, without a tested and certified way to get fires under control, you could inadvertently turn a small home accident into a serious emergency. Of course, fire extinguishers are not meant to suppress large fires, and if you're unsure, the safest thing to do is exit your house. But obtaining and maintaining the right fire extinguishers will still help keep your home and your family safe.

Article Submitted by Kathleen Weyand, Coldwell Banker Bain

(206) 380-6098

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